UPDATED Report: Timberwolves make push for Eric Bledsoe, Suns not interested in sign-and-trade talks

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UPDATE 5:52 pm: As I got into in the original post below, the only way the Minnesota Timberwolves end up with Eric Bledsoe is through a sign-and-trade with the Suns (they don’t have the cap space to make an outright offer). I toyed around with the potential of someone like Kevin Martin or Thaddeus young going into a deal that the Suns…

They’re not interested. At all. That according to adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports.

The Phoenix Suns have no interest in sign-and-trade discussions with the Minnesota Timberwolves involving restricted free-agent guard Eric Bledsoe, league sources told Yahoo Sports.

The Suns would want an All-Star – or potential All-Star – in return for Bledsoe and had only considered Kevin Love in a possible sign-and-trade scenario with the Timberwolves, league sources told Yahoo Sports.

Love obviously forced his way to Cleveland.

Bledsoe, you’re coming down to two options: Sign the qualifying offer of $3.7 million and play one more season with the Suns before becoming an unrestricted free agent next summer (as Greg Monroe did with the Pistons) or take the four-year, $48 million offer already on the table. Hard to see another good option popping up for Bledsoe.

5:11 pm: After a summer of waiting and hinting he might just sign the qualifying offer if he didn’t get a max offer, the Suns’ have a serious suitor for guard Eric Bledsoe — but one without a lot of leverage, one they can get a lot back from if they go that way.

Minnesota is making a push to get Bledsoe via a max offer, something first reported by Jude LaCava of Fox10 in Minneapolis and confirmed by Brian Windhorst at ESPN.

The Wolves are offering Bledsoe the four-year, $63 million maximum-level contract that he has been seeking, sources said. Bledsoe and the Suns have been in a stalemate all summer after the team offered him a four-year, $48 million deal in July.

This is a renewal of talks that have stretched over the past several months. The teams had discussions involving a Kevin Love trade that would involve Bledsoe but never made serious traction on a deal.

This has to be a sign-and-trade because the Timberwolves don’t have the cap space to make the offer outright. Minnesota beat writer Jerry Zgoda said earlier in the day he had not heard a deal was close.

The first reaction might to be to send Ricky Rubio south in the deal, but that makes no sense for the Suns. They want to keep Goran Dragic as the point guard when he opts out and becomes a free agent next summer and they will open up the pocket-book for him or lose him. The Suns can’t re-sign Dragic and Rubio (a restricted free agent next summer if no extension is reached) plus on the court the two can’t play together well, both are pretty pure points. Why take the ball out of Dragic’s hands? That said, any deal for Bledsoe is a sign Flip Saunders is moving on past Rubio (who he doesn’t want to pay what the market may demand next summer).

When healthy Bledsoe is an All-Star caliber guard — he averaged 17.7 points a game for the Suns last season with a very good .578 true shooting percentage — but the risk is he hasn’t been healthy for a couple of seasons (he played 43 games again last season coming off knee surgery).

Any deal is likely focused around other vets on the Minnesota roster such as Kevin Martin, Thaddeus Young and Chase Budinger (obviously Andrew Wiggins is untouchable). Without Bledsoe the Suns are light at the two, so Martin and his one year deal make some sense but he is owed $22.3 million over the next three years, that’s a lot for what he provides. The Timberwolves have wanted to move Martin (there were rumors of talks with the Bulls centered around Tony Snell, but Chicago is too smart to go for that). Also the Suns already have the Timberwolves 2015 pick but it is top 12 protected, those protections can be loosened.

Minnesota doesn’t have leverage here, so they are going to have to give up a lot to get him. Which has the markings of a deal that doesn’t get done.

But the idea of Bledsoe at the point and Wiggins on the wing is certainly interesting.

Birthday boy Karl-Anthony Towns giving Timberwolves even more reason to celebrate

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Tom Thibodeau is gone. Jimmy Butler is gone. Karl-Anthony Towns has taken greater ownership with the Timberwolves.

Towns organizes team-building activities like Topgolf and a halloween party. Towns gives the pump-up speech before each game. Towns communicates more on the floor.

That’s why, Towns said, he didn’t even realize his birthday was approaching until his parents recently reminded him.

“I get caught up in work,” Towns said.

Whether or not Towns actually needed the reminder, let alone for such a flattering reason, his birthday – which is today – got him reflecting. He felt old.

So, Towns mentioned to Timberwolves coach Ryan Saunders that his birthday was around the corner. Saunders had the opposite realization: Towns is turning 24 today. Just 24!

“He’s still young,” Saunders said. “As a coach, that gets me excited.”

Towns is one of the NBA’s special talents – a proven star with room to improve. Picking up the momentum he built last season, Towns appears to be really coming into his own this year.

The center is posting his usual impressive numbers (25.8 points and 12.0 rebounds per game), but his new attitude has stolen the show. He fought Joel Embiid and went face-to-face with Rudy Gay.

Don’t let the antics completely overshadow an impressive basketball story, though. Towns has led Minnesota to a surprising 7-4 start by revamping his game. Most of his shots are coming from beyond the arc, and his 4.2 assists per game are a career high.

By creating spacing and keeping the ball moving, Towns is contributing to a style that lifts all the Timberwolves. Perhaps, nobody has benefited more than Andrew Wiggins, who’s fitting right into this modern look.

The transformation is only the latest chapter for Towns, whose reputation has fluctuated significantly throughout his five-year career. This might explain why he already feels so old:

Minnesota drafted Towns No. 1 in 2015, and he won Rookie of the Year. In the 2016 and 2017 NBA general-manager survey, a plurality of voting executives picked Towns as the player they’d most like to start a team with. In the 2017 survey, Towns also received the most votes for league’s best center (even while getting a couple votes as league’s best power forward).

On paper, Towns delivered. He made his first All-Star and All-NBA teams the following season. He also reached the playoffs for the first time.

But Thibodeau and Butler butted heads with Towns, who never showed the hard edge those former Bulls tried to coax from him. After trading Butler, Minnesota went right back to losing.

In the 2018 and 2019 surveys, no general manager picked Towns to start a team with. Only a few picked him as best center.

Now, the landscape has shifted again. Anthony Davis spends a lot of time at power forward. Joel Embiid doesn’t stay as healthy. Nikola Jokic has fallen way off.

Towns is the early frontrunner for All-NBA first-team center.

“Everybody takes big steps in their growth at different times,” Saunders said, “and I think we’re seeing that from Karl.”

Towns can’t take anything for granted, and neither can the Timberwolves. But he at least has a good chance for vindication after his preseason playoff talk.

The way Towns has implemented more 3-point shooting into his game is particularly impressive. His 9.0 attempts per game lead NBA bigs, and he’s converting more than 40%. But floating on the perimeter was once a sign Towns was being too passive. Now, Towns is finding the right balance between spotting up beyond the arc and playing aggressively.

That’s in part his own mentality changing, in part his teammates’ mentality changing. Gone are the days when Towns could be an afterthought outside the paint.

“The ball is always going to find KAT,” Timberwolves guard Josh Okogie said. “He’s the center of our offense.”

Towns’ defensive intensity still comes and goes. He still must prove himself in the playoffs, and that usually requires trials and tribulations he hasn’t yet experienced.

But at age 24, Towns is finally/already showing something special.

DeAndre’ Bembry gets ejected for taunting Ricky Rubio, continued talking (video)

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The Hawks are rapidly changing. General manager Travis Schlenk took over just two years ago and has already turned over nearly the entire roster. Only DeAndre’ Bembry remains as an inherited player.

It’s not an easy situation for Bembry, who’s headed toward free agency next summer. He’s playing for a team with a lead executive who never chose him. Bembry can’t count on any team investing in him.

That’s the context in which Bembry got ejected from Atlanta’s loss to the Suns last night. He blocked Ricky Rubio‘s shot, taunted the Phoenix guard, got a technical foul, kept talking and got another technical foul.

The ejection seems pretty weak, but Bembry left himself vulnerable to the techs.

Hawks rookie Cameron Reddish also got ejected for multiple flagrant fouls.

Eric Bledsoe apparently bothered Bulls with post-buzzer dunk (video)

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Eric Bledsoe doesn’t care about the rules – written or unwritten.

As the buzzer sounded in the Bucks’ 124-115 win over the Bulls yesterday, Bledsoe dunked then hung on the rim. The basket came after time expired and didn’t count.

Bulls forward Thaddeus Young and coach Jim Boylen confronted Bledsoe on the court:

Young, via K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago:

“We all know what it is,” Young said. “They had the game won. There are some things you just don’t do at the end of games just out of common courtesy. We’ll move on. It is what it is. It happened. We just have to be ready when we play them in four or five days. We gotta be ready to get a win.”

“That’s with any team that cares about the morals and principles of the game,” Young said. “If we did that and the score was the opposite, they’d say the same thing. It is what it is. We just gotta be ready in four or five days. We gotta get a win. That’s the only way we can follow it back up now.”

Usually, I’d say: If you don’t like it, stop it. But that doesn’t really apply for a post-game dunk. There’s no defense after the buzzer.

Still, I’m not outraged by Bledsoe’s dunk. I bet, aside from Bulls partisans, most people aren’t (though plenty could work themselves into a tizzy if they desire). Some of Chicago’s bitterness probably stemmed from losing and allowing Bledsoe to score 31 points on 12-of-12 shooting inside the arc.

If the Bulls want to use this as motivation, more power to them. They should. Young, whose professionalism appears exemplary, is an ideal messenger.

But Boylen, who wouldn’t comment on this to the media, can’t claim the moral high ground.

Magic reveal orange uniforms

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It’s already difficult enough to flip on an NBA game and quickly determine which team is which. The home team could be wearing any color, so the same is true of road teams. Each team has had so many alternate jerseys in recent years. It’s disorienting.

Now, the Magic – whose primary colors have always been and remain blue, black, white and gray – might be wearing orange?

At least Orlando, because of the fruit (and, I guess, if you want to stretch it, sunshine), has a real connection to orange. That’s why these are the “orange uniforms,” even though they’re mostly gray.

I just beg of the powers that be: Please don’t have the Magic wear these against the Suns. I’ll never figure out which team is which.